The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Greg Harvill pictured with Ellensburg Sunrise

The Entrepreneurial Spirit is a series of interviews conducted by Catalyst Co-Working with local entrepreneurs and small business owners. Our goal is to give local entrepreneurs some insight and advice into starting your own small business. 

Interview with Greg Harvill of Jolt Java

Q: What made you take a leap into entrepreneurship?

A: After 25 years in IT I faced some changes in leadership…my career path had taken a fork in the road. I didn’t want to commute and so I decided to take a break from IT. I looked a lot of different positions. I went to this coffee stand every day and when the existing owner told me they were planning on selling, I took a leap of faith that every entrepreneur needs to take. I believed with the traffic, and the support from our friends and family that we could do it.

Q: What were the biggest initial hurdles to starting your business and how did you overcome them?
A: My biggest hurdle was skill development. I had never been a barista. So I had to learn the coffee trade, the equipment, and the tools. My second hurdle was inventory control, or as I call it “chasing the inventory”… as you grow you don’t have a predictable consumption and use pattern, my supplier and roaster are in Yakima and I didn't want to compromise my product…there were a lot of frantic late night calls to my roaster.
Q: Whom do you seek advice from for your business?
A: The previous owner gave me a lot of training, and my roaster worked with me a lot. For the first month of business I worked along side a friend of the family who worked as a barista in town for a long time. She was invaluable.
Q: How do you approach marketing your business?
A: It sounds cliché but my favorite way of marketing is word of mouth...when you make great products, people talk about them, so making a great product in a timely and consistent fashion, will get you consistent customers. Secondly we use a lot of Facebook. Luckily my wife has 1000 friends so through parents and kids and coworkers we’re able to reach a broad demographic of people. I have an 8 year old friend of the family that insists on going to jolt because it is the best Italian soda he’s ever had. And we recently went viral on Snapchat with our “Ellensburg Sunrise”!
Q: How do you come up with your signature drinks?
A: A lot of it is happenstance. A customer came and I made her a drink, and then she came back and worked on the flavors with our barista and together they came up with the sunrise. She was actually the first to post it to Snapchat. We named it the “Ellensburg Sunrise” to connect it locally, and thought it would be a fad... its become one of our most popular drinks!

Q: Did you ever deal with contention from your family concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you deal handle that?
A: Yes. This stand was going to represent an economic hardship compared to previous income. We were fortunate to have had enough previously that my wife was a stay at home mom. We both went out in search of jobs and luckily she found one that bridged the household income with what I was bringing in from the stand.

Q: What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
A: Nothing is guaranteed...but on a more positive note customer service. Again it sounds cliché, but focus on the customer and customer demands...people aren't just coming to you for the product. They come for friendliness, service, and consistency from 5:30AM-5:00PM Monday through Friday.
Q: What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained?
A:  As a business owner, recharging comes pretty naturally. If you don’t recharge, your business will suffer, when you are owner/operator you have to recharge at the end of the day. Recharging is organic, its do or die. I also recharge just through the pride of ownership, watching the business grow, and watching the customers who come back everyday to support us.
Q: So you’ve been open for 6 months now. Is there anything you would have done differently now that you know a little more?
A: There isn’t a whole lot. You know, I had done my homework on the property, spoken to the previous business owner. The only thing I wish I had done is researched the age of the assets.  I had been going there every day so I knew everything worked...some of the equipment will have to be replaced in a few years.
Q: Is there any advice you could give to someone hoping to start their own small business?
A: Find the passion in the work. I love coffee and am a nerd at heart, you know there are over 1400 chemical reactions that go into the making of it was easy for me to find the passion. If you find the passion in the work it will sustain you. Also make sure you have a market. I have friends that have the passion, great ideas and creativity but fail because there is no market.  Be patient, work hard, don’t compromise on your standards, and hunker down and don’t expect to get paid for awhile.

Greg Harvill is owner and operator of Jolt Java.  He runs the stand with the help of his wife, two children, and two baristas. Their motto is “Your Jolt. Your way. Excellent coffee with excellent service!”


Find them at their Facebook page or stop by the stand at 1617 Vantage HWY.